LIST PRICE: $1880.00
Although Leo Fender originally designed the Jazzmaster as an uptown, more sophisticated version of the Stratocaster and marketed it to jazz players, the guitar never caught on well with jazzers and wound up in the hands of surf rockers in the early ‘60s. As the 1970s rolled on, the popularity of the Jazzmaster waned. By 1980, production had ceased. Many of these unwanted guitars wound up in pawn shops at reasonable prices.
Enter Sonic Youth, who in the early ‘80s were looking for unique sounds in stark contrast to that of the now run-of-the-mill, Les Paul through-a-Marshall standard-issue guitar heroes. Sonic Youth guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore were creating a sonic landscape with their Jazzmasters that would garner them international attention and heavily influence the upcoming grunge explosion. The stock versions didn’t quite cut it though; Ranaldo, Moore and crew customized their respective axes, and many of these important changes are represented in the Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo signature Jazzmasters.
There are several similarities in these two guitars, the main one being the fact that the basic controls are minimalized compared to the original Jazzmaster. There is only one knob—volume—period. There is a single toggle switch, which is mounted to switch side-to-side rather than up and down so heavy strumming is less likely to accidentally switch pickups. Both models have black anodized pick guards, vintage style nickel hardware and each has a signature on the back of the headstock.
The sonic difference in the two Jazzmasters is mainly in the pickup choice. The Lee Ranaldo version has two Fender wide-range humbuckers, made to sound like the Tele deluxe pickups he always liked in his “Jazzblasters.” The Thurston Moore guitar has Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups. The Ranaldo pickups are smoother and possibly more versatile than the brighter and dirtier Antiquity pickups. Moore’s Jazzmaster comes in hunter green and has jumbo frets and an adjust-o-matic bridge, while the Ranaldo comes in sapphire blue and has vintage frets and a Fender Mustang bridge. Very cool.